The philosopher Derek Parfit has died (on January 1, 2017) at the age of 74.
In a posting to the website THE DAILY NOUS concerning Parfit’s death, Peter
Singer shares the final paragraphs of ON WHAT MATTERS VOLUME THREE, which
will b e published by Oxford University Press this coming February:
"One thing that greatly matters is the failure of we rich people to prevent, as
we so easily could, much of the suffering and many of the early deaths of the
poorest people in the world. The money that we spend on an evening’s
entertainment might instead save some poor person from death, blindness, or
chronic and severe pain. If we believe that, in our treatment of these poorest
people, we are not acting wrongly, we are like those who believed that they
were justified in having slaves.
"Some of us ask how much of our wealth we rich people ought to give to these
poorest people. But that question wrongly assumes that our wealth is ours to
give. This wealth is legally ours. But these poorest people have much stronger
moral claims to some of this wealth. We ought to transfer to these people, in
ways that I mention in a note, at least ten per cent of what we earn.
"What now matters most is how we respond to various risks to the survival of
humanity. We are creating some of these risks, and discovering how we could
respond to these and other risks. If we reduce these risks, and humanity
survives the next few centuries, our descendants or successors could end these
risks by spreading through this galaxy.
"Life can be wonderful as well as terrible, and we shall increasingly have the
power to make life good. Since human history may be only just beginning, we can
expect that future humans, or supra-humans, may achieve some great goods that
we cannot now even imagine. In Nietzsche’s words, there has never been such a
new dawn and clear horizon, and such an open sea.
"If we are the only rational beings in the Universe, as some recent evidence
suggests, it matters even more whether we shall have descendants or successors
during the billions of years in which that would be possible. Some of our
successors might live lives and create worlds that, though failing to justify
past suffering, would give us all, including some of those who have suffered,
reasons to be glad that the Universe exists.”
Singer’s additional comments, as well as those of many others, can be found at
Chris Bruce, in
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html